Our featured educator and guest blogger this week is Keri Alberts, a fourth grade teacher at Ashburn Elementary in Loudoun County. Despite her 20 years as an educator in Loudoun County, her marriage to a fellow teacher, and having four children in the public school system, Keri found herself in an unprecedented situation in quarantine. To chronicle her experience, Keri began a personal blog on her Facebook page which she generously submitted content from to Loudoun Museum’s COVID Community Archive. So much important history has been written in the personal diaries of individuals, so it makes perfect sense to collect online blogs and Facebook posts as modern examples of this type of documentary history. I reached out to Keri, inspired by her writing, to contribute to our Educator Experiences blog series. Featured below is her submission.
Had I known on March 11 that when my students walked out the door at the end of school, I would not be seeing them for the foreseeable future, I would have said a bit more than “Don’t forget your lunch boxes” and “Have a great rest of your day.” I would have made sure I more than just yelled “See you tomorrow” to my colleagues and that I grabbed the Yeti cup my students know is either full of hot tea or needs to be filled. But I didn’t know...
Fast forward about 45 days and I am teaching from my kitchen island via Google Meet, using a Hyperdoc, both technology tools I learned how to use about five minutes ago. I’m fighting with “Present Mode,” hoping everyone can see both screens, my face pressed against my screen as my students are now the size of my thumb nail. My “live” lessons are peppered with interruptions from my own children, the puppy we decided to get since, hey, where are we going, and the deafening sound of what must be a jackhammer coming from the basement as it is being finished. I compete with my husband’s voice, also a teacher, coming from his makeshift office, about 50 feet away. On the island to my left is my class list and a list of items to go over during my lesson. On the island to my right is my ever-increasing grocery list and a basket of laundry.
Image: Alberts' children doing distance education; Photo credit: Keri Alberts
Whereas before I spent my days wishing I had more time to plan for my students, I now spend my days wishing I was with my students. Whereas before I taught using an interactive whiteboard, I now have been relegated to holding up a dry erase board the size of a sheet of paper.
I mourn for all that has been lost, for my students, my own children, and also for myself, waking up some days with a physical ache. My students were poised to show amazing growth in math and reading this year. That will mostly go undocumented and uncelebrated. My own children, 8th, 6th, 4th, and 3rd, have missed the opportunity to spend time with their peers, time they will not get back. And my colleagues and I have missed the opportunity to finish the school year with interaction beyond what Google allows and text messages. I worry about the fall sports season and the effort my husband, also a high school football coach, is putting into a season that may or may not happen.
Image: Alberts manages her classroom at home in addition to her distance education duties. Photo credit: Keri Alberts
It would be so easy to phone it in, throw my hands up in the air and say “This is too hard. I can’t do it. Instead I am doing what most teachers are trying to do, learn technology on the fly, find resources in our closets, basically as we learn from Stone Soup, make soup from a stone. I have drawn on the strength of my fellow teachers, both those at my school and those in other schools and counties. I listen to the worries my husband shares with me and try to alleviate them without adding them to my own personal list of worries as the virus updates and summer activity cancellations continue to hit my inbox.
While the start of our next school year is in flux- distance learning, a return to the classroom, a hybrid model- one thing I know for sure is that the joy I will surely feel when the day comes when I can walk into my school and greet my students, old and new, is something that I am holding on to tightly and thinking about when it seems like this will go on for the foreseeable future.
We want to hear your story!
Upcoming blogs will feature local educators and their experiences- please consider sharing yours with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Distance Education Blog Submission.
Not an educator or student? Consider submitting your COVID-19 and quarantine experiences to our digital COVID Community Archive. For more information about submission, read our previous blog HERE.